Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. As a boy I was taught to stand up when a lady enters or leaves the room or indeed when she leaves and returns to the table in a restaurant. I have a new girlfriend and am moving in slightly different circles these days and wonder whether I might inadvertently be 'giving offence' to any feisty feminists by maintaining this practice.

What is your advice, Mary?

I.B. , London SW3

A. It would be an unusually aggressive feminist who would take you to task for this heritage act of courtesy. Should there be aggro, however, just defuse the tension by blaming your age and claiming the habit was so deeply ingrained as to have become a reflex.

Meanwhile, carry on. The important thing is that most women really like it.

Q. I have a great friend who lives in the country. As she is a full-time journalist and mother I usually leave it up to her to ring when she's got a free moment. Her calls are a delight, marred only by her drawing them to a sudden close with some daft fib such as 'I have just caught sight of my face in the mirror. I must fix it before the guests arrive.'

Or 'I can hear the neighbours quarrelling. I must go and listen.' This sounds to me very much like the sort of advice you might have given to her, Mary, and I would much rather she were straightforward with me. Does she really think I am so socially deprived that she cannot just say to me 'Must stop now' when she wants to terminate our chats?

A.C. , London W8

A. You should not jump to conclusions. It may be that your friend is equally enjoying these calls and is only brought to her senses by background distractions which make her realise that she must get on with her day. …

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